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Bulwer Lytton Sir Edward - Vril, The Power of the Coming Race (1871)

Bulwer Lytton Sir Edward - Vril, The Power of the Coming Race (1871)

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Vril, The Power of the Coming Race by Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton 1871
Vril, The Power of the Coming Race
bySir Edward Bulwer Lytton
1871
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Vril, The Power of the Coming Race by Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton 1871
 
CHAPTER I
 I AM a native of ----, in the United States of America. My ancestors migratedfrom England in the reign of Charles II., and my grandfather was notundistinguished in the War of Independence. My family, therefore, enjoyed asomewhat high social position in right of birth; and being also opulent, theywere considered disqualified for the public service. My father once ran for Congress, but was signally defeated by his tailor. After that event heinterfered little in politics, and lived much in his library. I was the eldest of three sons, and sent at the age of sixteen to the old country, partly to completemy literary education, partly to commence my commercial training in amercantile firm at Liverpool. My father died shortly after I was twenty-one;and being left well off, and having a taste for travel and adventure, I resigned,for a time, all pursuit of the almighty dollar, and became a desultory wanderer over the face of the earth.In the year 18--, happening to be in ----, I was invited by a professionalengineer, with whom I had made acquaintance, to visit the recesses of the ----mine, upon which he was employed.The reader will understand, ere he close this narrative, my reason for concealing all clue to the district of which I write, and will perhaps thank mefor refraining from any description that may tend to its discovery.Let me say, then, as briefly as possible, that I accompanied the engineer intothe interior of the mine, and became so strangely fascinated by its gloomywonders, and so interested in my friend's explorations, that I prolonged mystay in the neighbourhood, and descended daily, for some weeks, into thevaults and galleries hollowed by nature and art beneath the surface of theearth. The engineer was persuaded that far richer deposits of mineral wealththan had yet been detected, would be found in a new shaft that had beencommenced under his operations. In piercing this shaft we came one day upona chasm jagged and seemingly charred at the sides, as if burst asunder at somedistant period by volcanic fires. Down this chasm my friend caused himself to be lowered in a `cage,' having first tested the atmosphere by the safety-lamp.He remained nearly an hour in the abyss. When he returned he was very pale,and with an anxious, thoughtful expression of face, very different from itsordinary character, which was open, cheerful, and fearless.He said briefly that the descent appeared to him unsafe, and leading to no
 
result; and, suspending further operations in the shaft, we returned to themore familiar parts of the mine.All the rest of that day the engineer seemed preoccupied by some absorbingthought. He was unusually taciturn, and there was a scared, bewildered look in his eyes, as that of a man who has seen a ghost. At night, as we two weresitting alone in the lodging we shared together near the mouth of the mine, Isaid to my friend,--"Tell me frankly what you saw in that chasm: I am sure it was somethingstrange and terrible. Whatever it be, it has left your mind in a state of doubt.In such a case two heads are better than one. Confide in me."The engineer long endeavoured to evade my inquiries, but as, while he spoke,he helped himself unconsciously out of the brandy-flask to a degree to whichhe was wholly unaccustomed, for he was a very temperate man, his reservegradually melted away. He who would keep himself to himself should imitatethe dumb animals, and drink water. At last he said, "I will tell you all. Whenthe cage stopped, I found myself on a ridge of rock; and below me, the chasm,taking a slanting direction, shot down to a considerable depth, the darkness of which my lamp could not have penetrated. But through it, to my infinitesurprise, streamed upward a steady brilliant light. Could it be any volcanicfire; in that case, surely I should have felt the heat. Still, if on this there wasdoubt, it was of the utmost importance to our common safety to clear it up. Iexamined the sides of the descent, and found that I could venture to trustmyself to the irregular projections or ledges, at least for some way. I left thecage and clambered down. As I drew near and nearer to the light, the chasm became wider, and at last I saw, to my unspeakable amaze, a broad level roadat the bottom of the abyss, illumined as far as the eye could reach by whatseemed artificial gas-lamps placed at regular intervals, as in the thoroughfareof a great city; and I heard confusedly at a distance a hum as of human voices.I know, of course, that no rival miners are at work in this district. Whosecould be those voices? What human hands could have levelled that road andmarshalled those lamps?"The superstitious belief, common to miners, that gnomes or fiends dwellwithin the bowels of the earth, began to seize me. I shuddered at the thoughtof descending further and braving the inhabitants of this nether valley. Nor indeed could I have done so without ropes, as from the spot I had reached tothe bottom of the chasm the sides of the rock sank down abrupt, smooth, andsheer. I retraced my steps with some difficulty. Now I have told you all.""You will descend again?""I ought, yet I feel as if I durst not.""A trusty companion halves the journey and doubles the courage. I will gowith you. We will provide ourselves with ropes of suitable length andstrength--and--pardon me--you must not drink more to-night. Our hands andfeet must be steady and firm to-morrow."
CHAPTER II
WITH the morning my friend's nerves were re-braced, and he was not lessexcited by curiosity than myself. Perhaps more; for he evidently believed inhis own story, and I felt considerable doubt of it: not that he would havewilfully told an untruth, but that I thought he must have been under one of those hallucinations which seize on our fancy or our nerves in solitary,unaccustomed places, and in which we give shape to the formless and sound
 
to the dumb.We selected six veteran miners to watch our descent; and as the cage heldonly one at a time, the engineer descended first; and when he had gained theledge at which he had before halted, the cage re-arose for me. I soon gainedhis side. We had provided ourselves with a strong coil of rope.The light struck on my sight as it had done the day before on my friend's. Thehollow through which it came sloped diagonally: it seemed to me a diffusedatmospheric light, not like that from fire, but soft and silvery, as from anorthern star. Quitting the cage, we descended, one after the other, easilyenough, owing to the juts in the side, till we reached the place at which myfriend had previously halted, and which was a projection just spacious enoughto allow us to stand abreast. From this spot the chasm widened rapidly likethe lower end of a vast funnel, and I saw distinctly the valley, the road, thelamps which my companion had described. He had exaggerated nothing. Iheard the sounds he had heard--a mingled indescribable hum as of voices anda dull tramp as of feet. Straining my eye farther down, I clearly beheld at adistance the outline of some large building. It could not be mere natural rock,it was too symmetrical, with huge heavy Egyptian-like columns, and thewhole lighted as from within. I had about me a small pocket-telescope, and bythe aid of this I could distinguish, near the building I mention, two formswhich seemed human, though I could not be sure. At least they were living,for they moved, and both vanished within the building. We now proceeded toattach the end of the rope we had brought with us to the ledge on which westood, by the aid of clamps and grappling-hooks, with which, as well as withnecessary tools, we were provided.We were almost silent in our work. We toiled like men afraid to speak to eachother. One end of the rope being thus apparently made firm to the ledge, theother, to which we fastened a fragment of the rock, rested on the ground below, a distance of some fifty feet. I was a younger and a more active manthan my companion, and having served on board ship in my boyhood, thismode of transit was more familiar to me than to him. In a whisper I claimedthe precedence, so that when I gained the ground I might serve to hold therope more steady for his descent. I got safely to the ground beneath, and theengineer now began to lower himself. But he had scarcely accomplished tenfeet of the descent, when the fastenings, which we had fancied so secure, gaveway, or rather the rock itself proved treacherous and crumbled beneath thestrain; and the unhappy man was precipitated to the bottom, falling just at myfeet, and bringing down with his fall splinters of the rock, one of which,fortunately but a small one, struck and for the time stunned me. When Irecovered my senses I saw my companion an inanimate mass beside me, lifeutterly extinct. While I was bending over his corpse in grief and horror, Iheard close at hand a strange sound between a snort and a hiss; and turninginstinctively to the quarter from which it came, I saw emerging from a dark fissure in the rock a vast and terrible head, with open jaws and dull, ghastly,hungry eyes--the head of a monstrous reptile resembling that of the crocodileor alligator, but infinitely larger than the largest creature of that kind I hadever beheld in my travels. I started to my feet and fled down the valley at myutmost speed. I stopped at last, ashamed of my panic and my flight, andreturned to the spot on which I had left the body of my friend. It was gone;doubtless the monster had already drawn it into its den and devoured it. Therope and the grappling-hooks still lay where they had fallen, but they affordedme no chance of return: it was impossible to re-attach them to the rock above,

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